Evalina got The Wizard in the Tree, by Lloyd Alexander, free from the library for doing such a great job with her summer reading. I'd never heard of it before, but thought we'd give it a chance.
The Story: Mallory is a kitchen maid with a love of fairy tales. When walking through the woods, she discovers her favorite oak tree was cut down to make way for a road - and is astonished to discover a wizard inside the tree! Arbican had been trapped there years and years before, and missed his kind's exodus to the land of Vale Innus. He's not at all what Mallory expected from a wizard, being grumpy and unwilling to grant her wishes. Still, he lost some of his powers in the time he spent stuck in the tree, and needs Mallory's help getting them back. Meanwhile, the unscrupulous Squire Scrupnor is trying to turn Mallory's beloved village into a coal mining town, and plans on taking all of the profits for himself, while blaming Arbican for the murder of his predecessor. Can Mallory help Arbican escape to Vale Innus, and stop Scrupnor?
The Good: It's an engaging story, and Mallory is a strong female protagonist. Arbican is an interesting wizard, not cliche and predictable. Scrupnor is a thoroughly dispicable bad guy, slimy and no good. The story is exciting in parts and Evalina seemed to enjoy it.
The Bad: Some language is quite strong. Mallory is repeatedly referred to as a slut and a wench (though in the original and not contemporary uses of the words), and I actually skipped over the words if I was reading the sentences they were in (slut more than wench). I just don't need Evalina repeating those words on the playground. Some of the plot was kind of talky - an entire chapter was pretty much grown ups talking about grown up politics, and I think it got a bit boring for Evalina in that part. It was right after Arbican was introduced, too, and I know she just wanted to see more about him! (So did I). Though it was only 144 pages long, it seemed much longer in parts, and ended well, but kind of abruptly.
The Verdict: It was a good book, overall, but I wouldn't say it's something I would go out of my way to read. Amazon says it's best for ages 9-12, and I would agree with that. Evalina liked it well enough, but I do think that some of it went over her head. Not bad, but don't rush out and buy it for your 6 year old. Older, maybe...